1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
I want to begin this study in the Thessalonian letters where it all began. The establishment of the church. The starting of the church was in AD 49-50, during Paul’s 2nd missionary journey. And it was not an easy church plant (Acts 17:1-15). Jealous Jews of the city produced a strong reaction to Paul’s successful ministry and a riot ensued as the city went into an uproar. When they did not find Paul and Silas (Silvanus) at Jason’s house, they dragged Jason and other Christians before the city authorities (Acts 17:6-8). The result was that Paul and Silas had to leave the city by night to go to Berea. From there the Jews from Thessalonica were hot on their heels as they heard of their preaching in Berea, and continued their persecution there as well.
Why Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica seems clear, when we note that he was ripped away from the church by persecution. (Acts 17:10; 1 Thes. 2:17). Often the understanding of the purpose of this first letter as well as the second is solely a focus on end times and the return of the Lord, which is not entirely the case. While Paul definitely seeks to comfort the believers with teaching of the return of Christ, he is comforting them because of their need for comfort! How profound, right? Why did they need comfort? Because they were fairly new believers with not a lot of “training” or time for discipleship, that were facing intense physical persecution. Their suffering is noted throughout (1:6; 2:1-2; 2:14-17; 3:1-10). Paul wanted to comfort them and to guide these fairly new believers with his letters to be more like Christ and be comforted by His future coming (2:2, 9; 3:3-5).
So after the greeting (v.1), to begin the letter Paul sets the stage of encouraging these suffering believers in 3 ways: Reminding them of his love for them (2-3), Reminds them of what Christ has done (4), Gives evidence of their salvation (5-10). How do you begin to encourage someone that is in real suffering? Love them and Pray for them.
(1) Paul genuinely loved and was thankful for them (1 Thes. 1:2-3). Constantly Mentioning in Prayer (2) Remembering their Service in Prayer before God (3). Faith…hope…love are somewhat intangible ways of evidencing one’s faith. So Paul links this with work…labor…steadfastness. This is not teaching that we work, labor and must be steadfast to earn our position or keep or position in Christ. They are simply an external outworking of faith…hope…and love and of course, all service is done in Christ. Does this characterize your service in your church? After you encourage a person through love and prayer
What else can you can do to encourage them in their suffering?
(2) Remind them of their Position in Christ (1 Thes. 1:4). They are loved by God (Romans 1:7; 2 Thes 2:13) and chosen by God. We could digress the discussion here and discuss the love of God found in individual and unconditional election, but we can save that for another post. Paul is simply pointing out that there life shows tremendous evidence of their election.
(3) Shows them the evidence that God has chosen them. (1 Thes. 1:5-10). 2 Peter 1:10 reminds us to always be examining our lives, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” Paul is stating to the Thessalonians that he is sure of their calling and election because it is evident! God is at work! How has your life been transformed by the gospel?
Why does Paul say this about the Thessalonians? Why should someone say this about you? It was not merely a hearing of the gospel. “because our gospel came to you not only in word.” (v.5) The gospel was shown in power (v.5), “this could be referring to a miraculous power or power in the proclamation of the Word,” (ESV Study bible). The Fruit of the Spirit was evident (1 Thes. 1:5; Gal. 5:22-23). They were sincere in their faith, it was not just for show “and with full conviction”(v.5). The men (apostles) proclaiming the truth, were men of integrity and is further evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel. “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake,” (v.5). This so relevant today as it was in the first century, as there are so many charlatans seeking not to advance the gospel and salvation of souls, but to advance their own pride and pocketbooks. With Paul and his companions, this was not the case. They were humbly following godly leadership and God Himself. (v.6) This is seen in joyfully enduring affliction that only comes from the Spirit (v.6). They were spreading the same gospel that saved them, (v.7-8) from Macedonia to Achaia to everywhere.Their service speaks for itself “so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you,” (v.8-10). They turned from their wickedness to serve Christ (v.9) and were eagerly awaiting our future hope! (v.10).